Paris may be the city of lights, but no city trumps Las Vegas when it comes to a display of effulgent neon strobes and glinting headlamps. In fact, one could say that Vegas is the true city of dazzling luminosity.
Gliding into Las Vegas in the morning means bright blue skies, sandy majestic rolling hills with little patches of placid waters-a picturesque view of Nature’s brilliant wonders- until you see the strip. Rather contrasting but just as majestic in its splendor, you spy a line of impressive skyscrapers in odd varieties of shapes and sizes: Luxor- a sphinx and the towering pyramid; Paris- with its own Eiffel Tower and hot air balloon; New York, New York- splendid with the Statue of Liberty and breathtaking roller coasters… And that’s just to name a few.
We stayed in the Mirage, a splendid hotel with a dolphin enclosure and an utterly out-of-the-world tropical interior. Throngs of people strolled in and out its rotating doors 24/7 (a city in itself that never sleeps), which made me rather reminiscent of the Lotus Hotel in the Percy Jackson movie (which my sister happens to be obsessed with as she’s a Greek mythology fanatic). It feels as if everyone is trapped there- more and more people keep pouring in but none exit the hotel.
Clouding the rather superficial buzz and thrilling atmosphere of the place was a sense of unease that signaled that things were really just an elaborate facade. With the Statue of Liberty standing next to the Eiffel Tower, one could not help but feel a little out of place. It felt, well, fake. Perhaps it was due to the inimitable nature of these well-known landmarks, but what truly repelled me was most probably the knowledge of the shadowy and distasteful going-ons that fuel the luxury of Las Vegas.
One hardly has to look far to see it. Quite the contrary- it smacks you right in the face and leaves no escape. The hotel lobby is cluttered with an assortment of poker tables, jackpot machines, and all kinds of other gambling whatnots. One only has to look at the fixated, frustrated (and the sporadically elated) faces of people betting it big to strike it rich, or just dishing out a few wads for the rush of adrenalin- to see feel the terrible notion of spending and risky gambling on which Las Vegas thrives. The lascivious women walking the streets (clad in only skimpy lingerie despite the chilling weather) only hints at what happens behind the scenes in hotel rooms and back seats of cars. Not to mention the unseen squabbles and fights over rights to develop these money-making chain of hotels. In Las Vegas everyday is indulgence day- it’s all about spend, spend, spend- you can only imagine how much profit could be made out of it.
Not to say I didn’t enjoy the trip. It was something new. Singapore has all the lights and the bustle and shopping strips, but is essentially backed by a cult of efficiency- one could hardly make a trip to orchard without being roughly shoved aside by office-goers or being besieged by guilt for not having spent the time more productively. The atmosphere in Las Vegas was of thrill and excitement- albeit backed by a sinister and menacing undertone.
Once you get past the grandeur of three-storeyed H&Ms, gondola and Greek-statue filled shopping centers, however, you notice the irascible shopkeepers and taxi drivers and realize how tough life is in this city. In any city. But unlike Singapore where safety is taken for granted, crime in Las Vegas is still rampant.
Perhaps my dissatisfaction with Las Vegas lies not with the place per se but with the people- I just can not reconcile myself with the thought that hundreds of thousands of people sit (or lie as is the case with the promiscuous nature of some) in casinos just a few minutes away, ignoring and rather blaspheming the alternative display of grandeur that Nature offers. That’s right.
The Grand Canyon was certainly the highlight of those three days- words cannot describe how awe-inspiring the vast expanse of sprawling rocks and magnificent gorges is.
When flying over such a majestic sight one can’t help but think that perhaps it is a moment perfect for poetic formulations or profound ruminations- but all I could draw was a blank. Perhaps that is the greatest leisure- not thinking. Just looking. Being an inconsequential being (or rather not being) and fading into the background. It doesn’t overwhelm you or draw you into a void where thoughts are vacuumed and disintegrated into space- no, you just sit in silence. Not thinking, not doing anything.
It’s quite indescribable and the feeling is impossible to explain unless both parties have experienced it. It’s impossible to explain because the feeling is simply, well, not feeling. It’s nothing. Is that the ineffable [not feeling] that poets and authors try to express through their works after they have witness Nature’s greatness? I think so.
The bounds of human emotion are continually changing shape, metamorphosing and transforming like bubbles oozing along in water- indefinable, surprising, delicate and amusing.
I was surprised.
That was something I hadn’t felt before.
Perhaps that’s why everyone of us needs an escape into Nature. Not to collect our thoughts, but to dispel them.
And that was the highlight of my trip to Vegas- the epitome of a perfect holiday moment.
After all, holidays are meant to give our minds a break.